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Procrastination (Part III)

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Mother once told me a story of an elderly couple in a boat on the lake. They were violently arguing over how a string was cut. The man said with a knife and his wife said with scissors. The man became so angry that he threw his wife overboard and she started to drown. The first time she went down and came back up to the surface, she hollered out “scissors.”

The same happened the second time. The third and final time she came up to the surface, her lungs were so full of water as to prevent her from hollering out. Therefore, she made a scissors type motion with her fingers and then died. This story is about two people being so stubborn in their belief of being right that one is willing to kill and the other is willing to die -- and over something that is really not that important. Such a loyalty to a belief and a stubbornness in holding on to that belief are at the core of procrastination.

Procrastinators are the “I’m gonna” people -- “I’m gonna do this” or “I’m gonna do that” which, in their minds, is the same as doing it. The problem here is that they do not keep their promise to themselves and therefore cannot trust themselves to do what they say they will do. Students who procrastinate and wait until the night before the examination waste tremendous amounts of energy and set themselves up for failure.

There is energy lost in trying to get back into the flow of what the teacher was trying to teach and then being overwhelmed by a sudden rush of information coming from “cramming.” Suppose an emergency comes up the night before the examination?

Something will have to be let go. It is extremely inefficient to procrastinate in obtaining business supplies until you run out. Procrastination comes from being lazy; from escaping from unpleasant activities; from fear of failure or of success; from a desire to get sympathy or help from others; from being overwhelmed with the problems one self-creates out of laziness; from a need to have an excuse for doing sloppy work (“I just did not have enough time”); and from avoiding the added responsibilities that go along with success.

To break up procrastination involves the “see-saw” principle -- you have to give up something to get something. The first step is always the hardest and that involves Self-Discipline (training the mind to follow a desired track toward a goal) and self-control (keeping oneself from doing what one is inclined to do). Both are needed to break up stubbornness (i.e. will-power used in the wrong way).

Because your will expresses itself through action, Train your will by performing tasks that demand concentration on a Purpose (what you want to do); a Goal (where you want to get to); Dedication (being certain what you care about); a Commitment (being one with what you care about); Determination (setting boundaries within which you must act); Persistence (holding on to your purpose and goal like a crab that will not let go); and Perseverance (going straight ahead into and through opposing forces despite set backs and exhaustion). All of these are the opposite of procrastination.

Next is to switch loyalty from whatever is taking you in a wrong direction (“unnoble” loyalty) to the moral reasoning that will take you in the right direction (“noble” loyalty).

However,if you discover that your that promise is associated with something bad and wrong, you are then released from your word. In other words, “noble” loyalty must always replace anything “unnoble.” The distinction is made by the intuition (an immediate understanding of the truth based on one’s pure feelings) and the rational thinking that results from good character.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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